And so folks, it goes a little something like this…

And so folks, it goes a little something like this…

After finding a great spot with super acoustics and fantastic isolation, the next move had to be pretty well thought out. I had at this point gotten together some pretty cool gear, a nice Neve side car console, some pretty nifty preamps, equalizers, compressors and a nice complement of microphones, it seemed like the next step was to integrate it all and make it work in the new music scene.

Nowadays it’s all about getting great sounds, achieving a decent work flow and dealing with the ever shrinking budgets. The first thing I started to think about was the large frame console. Was it necessary?

Back when I started recording (I hate to admit it was the mid to late seventies) we were limited to 16 and then 24 tracks. Eventually a very smart man by the name of Bob Liftin (engineer extraordinaire of SNL fame) got the bright idea to use SMPTE time code to link up another multi track machine. Then we entered the heartbreaking world of multi tracks locked together and misery of course ensued. But it sure was better than reducing your drum microphones down to just four tracks – kick, snare and drums left and right. That’s for sure.

Because we have loads of recordable tracks now, we don’t really have to combine stuff that much anymore if we don’t care to. Thus buying a  big mainframe console went out the window. Then of course there’s the sound quality you get from a nice vintage console. On the surface there is indeed a certain romance to the idea, but the more I thought about it the more I remembered how we would stay up nights trying to figure out how to patch around the old APIs we used back then. Don’t get me wrong, those  mic pre-amplifiers and 550 series equalizers were and still are top notch, but the ACA combining amps (busses) were so noisy you definitely had to get them out of the signal path. The fewer electronics meant the clearest route.  Direct outs whenever possible and coming straight out of the microphone into a preamp and right to tape was the winning strategy. I know this is basic engineering 101 and not exactly an epiphany for you veterans, but it became my eureka moment of “hey I have the stuff to do that now, why bother with the console?”

It comes off sounding pretty hoity-toity and purest, but the truth is, the good microphone, quality microphone preamp and clear signal path became my motus operandi when I opened the studio seven years ago. I get off my ass and patch – which is good for me. Probably the only exercise I get. The result I find is warm and analogue sounding. I’m asked quite a bit if I’m using a tape machine. I really like when that happens.

So that leaves the headphones and actual mixing to be factored in to this setup.

To have a console for a headphone mix seemed a little extreme and ludicrous so I just elected to get the Hear Back system and have people do their own headphone mixes. Most musicians enjoy doing their own mix anyway and the system has a great deal of headroom so I called it a day on that front.

As far as mixing, I feel that when I’ve run the signal through my favorite stuff and gotten a good recording, what is the point of encoding back through the gear again? Why turn the output of the digital recorder down to accommodate an old console? I feel like the sound is clearer and there’s more headroom to play with. I know some people won’t agree with this, but that’s what makes horse races as they say.  I do use a summing box to enhance the imaging and overall sonics (it is technically the console) that has an insert to put in a stereo equalizer, a compressor or both. But I am reluctant to put much else between the outputs of Protools and the final print unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary. Again – less electronics equals less noise and more clarity.

From a practical stand point also, not having to take hours to document a massive analogue console after a mix saves a whole lot of time. Recalling a mix is a snap so work flow is fast and efficient.

Maybe it was a bit long winded but I wanted to illustrate the thought behind the current setup so when you look at the pictures it makes sense.

Thanks for checking out the site and happy trails through the sonic landscape friends.

DB

4 Comments

  1. David,

    You have always been a musical guru !!

    ” may the groove be with you ”

    — let’s roll —

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